I was in a situation the other day that I found a little surprising as a native New Englander: When I casually offered someone a munchkin, she paused and said, “Well, I’ve never had a munchkin before, so why not?”
As she looked to be around my age, I had so many questions. How is it that she had never had one? Where was she from? Did she never go to a class party as a child? Has no one picked up a box for her office on a whim? I did not get to the bottom of the matter, but I’d like to think that I was nice about it. But really, who am I to judge? People can’t believe I’ve never seen “Toy Story.”
It’s a good icebreaker, to be sure, when you ask someone to tell you something they’ve never done—not in an edgy, high school kind of way, but in an “oh, that’s interesting” kind of way. You run into claims like “I’ve never seen a ‘Star Wars’ movie,” to “I’ve never used social media,” to “I never read ‘The Great Gatsby’ and the like. Talk to your kids and tell him you’ve never heard of Jack Harlow and they will probably give you a similar vibe.
But if we’re being honest, these are questionable nevers. There are likely scenarios in which someone will find their way into a munchkin, meet Luke Skywalker, create a Facebook account, or encounter Daisy Buchanan for the first time; to quote Petyr Bealish, “A lot can happen between now and never.” There’s a lifetime of moments left to do things we said we never would.
There are also the casual nevers which we throw around to describe unlikely events that somehow keep surprising us. Here’s just a partial list of things-that-could-never-happen from recent history: a Qatari World Cup; a new U.S. congressman who fabricated his entire life story and still won; an irrelevant Red Sox team that won’t spend money; a U.S. president who incited an insurrection and went unpunished; the NBA Players’ Association and many of its stars taking the side of an antisemite; a climate activist Twitter-baiting a human trafficker into being geolocated and arrested. I’m sure many of us thought those things would never happen, yet here we are.
Joining that list of never-is-now things, as much as it pains me, there’s a lot to be nervous about regarding Israel’s new governing coalition. If the new government actually enacts legislation that curtails the Law of Return, allows for businesses to refuse service to customers on the basis of their religious conscience, and eliminates egalitarian prayer spaces at the Kotel, what are we going to do? Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People, not the theocratic plaything of Avi Maoz and Religious Zionism. Even a few months ago I would have said that there was never a scenario in which Israel would lurch so hard to the right and backwards. Then again, I also thought Roe v. Wade was settled law, so fool me twice. For more on this do yourself a favor and read “No Further” from State of Tel Aviv.
Not to be overlooked, we also have loudly proclaimed “Never Again” about preventing future genocides in the aftermath of the Holocaust. How’s that going recently? Considering Russian war crimes in Ukraine, 500,000 dead civilians in Syria since 2011, and the ongoing Uyghur genocide in China, it sure feels like there is no political will to enforce red lines, well, anywhere. Apparently “Never Again” actually means “Again, eventually, because politics.”
Theoretically, we all once had our lines in the sand; unfortunately, the crashing tide of never-ending bad news seems to have washed them away. All we are left with is sadness and nostalgia for some kind of enlightened, democratic world order that we held in our hands for a generation, at most, as we march slowly into the past, whistling past (and into) graveyards, proclaiming that there’s nothing we can do in a world that has lost all of its moral authority. And to really put a bow on it, the callous un-nevering of the Holocaust is only mirrored by the profoundly American and utterly nihilistic behavior of never doing anything to prevent school shootings, workplace shootings, mall shootings, and other instances of gun violence in the aftermath of the next one. I guess the only real never we’ve run into is that when it comes to guns, we never actually are going to fix the problem.
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